Officials Investigating Southwest Flight That Departed From Closed Runway


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating an incident involving a Southwest flight that took off from a temporarily closed runway last week.

The incident occurred in the early hours of June 25 at Portland International Jetport (KPWM), when a Southwest Boeing 737 took off on Runway 29 at 5:43 a.m.—two minutes before the runway and tower were set to open.

According to, controllers made several attempts to warn the crew of Flight 4805 that the runway was still closed. At the time, an airport vehicle was on the runway conducting an inspection.

The warnings went unheeded as the Southwest crew was communicating on another frequency with regional air traffic controllers near Boston. When the Boston controller informed Southwest that the runway they had departed from was closed, the pilot remarked, “I thought it opened at 45 [minutes past the hour]. There were no markings or anywhere.”

The controller replied, “It did open at 45, but you departed at 42.” Southwest responded, “That’s not what we’re showing, but OK.” 

An investigation is underway, and Southwest said it would cooperate with investigators to understand the circumstances of the departure.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. If they did depart early and missed any notam, maybe this will get the FAA off its behind and get the notam system fixed. Interesting that controllers at the tower were trying to contact the plane prior to takeoff when tower was still closed. My experience with tower closures is that there are no contact or services until opening time, not a few minutes prior.

  2. My understanding from other aviation sources is that it was Portland Operations (ie airport ground operations), not Portland controllers (ie ground or tower) were trying to communicate with SWA on the ground while the SWA crew were obtaining their IFR clearance from Portland clearance delivery on another frequency while still on the ground in Portland. SWA crew communications with Boston occurred much later in the flight.

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